I woke up to two missed calls from my manager, and did my good deed of the day by picking up a shift after someone didn't show in the morning. I folded jeans until 5pm, which was conveniently when CJ got done with a private ballroom lesson. Our coaches' studio was right across the street from the mall, and CJ needed my MCard to swipe Alison into the gym to practice after, so he offered to pick me up from work to get my school ID.
When I hopped into CJ's car, fresh from five hours at A&F, he put an arm around me, greeting me with a hug, not exactly the normal greeting.
I went on excitedly to tell him how my store was hooking me up with a full time position post-graduation, allowing myself to relax in knowing where my salary would be coming from.
CJ told me about how his day had been crappy aside from lesson, and then he came to the sentence that made my heart stop:
"And seeing you has made my day better."
"Awh, CJ, glad to help," I smiled sweetly, but inwardly I cringed.
It didn't worry me that he said it, it worried me that he felt it.
Yes, seeing my best friends could frequently make my day, but I had just seen CJ the day before. We had a max of 20 minutes from the mall to my house, it wasn't like we had big plans to hang out. As crappy as his day had been, he had been texting me all day long, it wasn't like we hadn't talked all day and loads to catch up on.
When we hugged goodbye 20 minutes later, I knew I was in trouble. I stood on my porch and watched CJ drive away to practice, realizing that I was watching CJ fall for me. I stared out at the snow covered landscape of Lawrence Street: my feelings for him may be buried as deep as the foot of snow currently covering Ann Arbor, but his feelings were like the first blades of grass when the snow melts at the end of a long winter.
Another coat of snow was falling when I left my ballroom lesson five hours later. Lesson had been pleasantly refreshing: Joey and I had learned a lot, we had a great personal chat with our coaches, and Joey and I had bonded on our drive home. It was one of those days when dance was cleansing, for the mind, body, and spirit.
CJ insisted on dropping my MCard off that night, in case he didn't wake up to meet me for free bagels and coffee the next day, which I needed my school ID to get.
"Can I bother you for like five minutes?" CJ said, after producing my MCard from his wallet.
"Yeah, sure," I said, nodding for him to follow me into the house.
We sat down at the desk Whitney and I shared. I told him about lesson and I told him about the two heart-to-hearts Joey and I had had the past two days, "I think the inevitability of graduation is making us all a little crazy."
"It's making me a little crazy, that's for sure. I didn't have a problem leaving after undergrad, but its going to be harder to leave here, even after less time. I'm more attached to the ballroom team, I'm more attached to the people-"
He wasn't attached to the people in plural: he was attached to me, CJ didn't have other friends.
Then our conversation took a turn, "Sarah and I haven't talked in four days, and that makes me stress about everything more."
I could feel CJ's tension level rise as he said the words, "Have you tried talking to her at all?"
"I just get one-word responses. I don't know how to instigate a conversation at this point."
"If you don't mind me asking," I began tentatively, "What's going to happen when you tell her that you and I have been hanging out these past few weeks?"
"I don't even know," CJ looked me right in the eyes, "I don't even know if I care at this point."
I nodded, running a hand through my hair.
"You're really my only friend here, my only true friend at this point," CJ admitted, "Last year I had Yev too, but he's been distant. Last semester we were cool but this semester he's just been doing his own thing. Even over the summer, I didn't talk to him either, and he only text me once like 'Hey man, whats up,' and you texted me a bunch of times-"
"Excuse me, I texted you twice."
"I swear it was more than that."
"Do you want me to pull them up?" I raised my eyebrows, reaching for my phone.
"No, don't-" CJ insisted.
"There was the first text when I was on the bus and 'Marry Me' came on-"
"Can we not talk about that text, please?"
I looked up from my phone. There were tears in CJs eyes.
"Ok," I said quickly, taken aback by CJ's response.
"I just can't think about that right now, I really can't," CJ leaned his back in the chair, his eyes bright red, "The timing of that text..."
"I'm not speaking," I said softly.
A lot of unspoken things passed between us in those moments, as a few tears escaped CJ's eyes. Out of the corner of my dry eye, I glimpsed the single red rose from CJ on my desk, Just to the side of it, the candle I had made with Philip over the summer was burning, filling the room with the scents of Hawaiian lei, yuzu, and gogi berry. The irony of the pairing of things-from-boys wasn't lost on me.
"I'm sorry," I said delicately.
"No, I'm sorry," CJ wiped his eyes on his shirted and sighed, "Thanks for listening."
"Anytime," I smiled.
"I should go," CJ gave me a watery smile, and we both stood up. CJ pulled me close and we hugged.
"The second text was about food," I muttered.
We broke apart and CJ smiled, "I remember that one too."
He wiped his eyes again and we chatted lightly as CJ got his coat and I walked him out.
"You're the best," CJ hugged me again at the door. Our hug lingered, neither of us ready to let go for a while.
"See you tomorrow for bagels?"
"Of course," CJ nodded.
Was this the snow melting at the end of winter, not to be seen again for many months, or was this simply a reprieve before the next snowfall?